Welcome to our next edition of Inside the Shell, the weekly Maryland football-recruiting roundup.
The Final 2017 Targets
Anthony McFarland, RB, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.): Just a couple days after Tariq Castro-Fields (discussed below) announced he was delaying his college decision, McFarland followed suit, reneging on a Jan. 25 announcement. McFarland, who we anticipate committing Jan. 27 (if not then, then on Signing Day), is legitimately torn between Miami and Maryland, with a number of variables at play. Not the least of which are those close to the four-star, which may be pulling him in different directions.
The Hurricanes led for some time, but it’s a credit to UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, head coach D.J. Durkin, offensive coordinator Walt Bell and running backs coach Anthony Tucker that they’ve battled back. The coaches’ persistent pursuit (Durkin and Abdul-Rahim went in-home Jan. 24), coupled with their ability to sell Maryland’s direction and offensive system to the McFarlands, have the recruit thinking turtles.
Indeed, two of the main factors working in Maryland’s favor are the early-playing time opportunities and how he’d be featured in Bell’s spread. The DeMatha back likes how he can line up in the slot or in the backfield, the Terps taking advantage of his speed and versatility.
McFarland has also spoken highly of the DMV movement and the chance to play alongside his fellow locals at UMD. The DeMatha runner easily connected with said locals during his many treks through College Park, Md., including his standout official visit Dec. 2 and unofficial Dec. 9. Moreover, McFarland truly believes the Terps can contend for a conference championship with a foundation of hometown recruits, much like Miami in the 1980s.
Furthermore, McFarland likes where UMD is heading with the incoming recruits; the pending $160 million facility upgrades; and the coaching staff in place.
But Miami, which McFarland’s mother is reportedly favoring, is right there alongside the Terps. The DeMatha back has a longstanding rapport with head man Mark Richt and the other Canes’ staff members. McFarland should be hosting Miami assistant Thomas Brown Jan. 26, and it’s probable that pitch will hit home, just like the Maryland staff’s.
Plus, McFarland loves the Hurricanes’ offense, believing he could thrive in a variety of backfield/slot roles. And he couldn’t say enough about his Coral Gables, Fla., official, mentioning his bond with the players and his comfort around the program.
This one’s a true tossup. The push and pull is real, and we hear different leaders seemingly every other hour. The good news is the suspense will end Jan. 27, unless McFarland holds off until Feb. 1.
Ellis Brooks, ILB, Benedictine (Richmond, Va.): The four-star backer Brooks embarked on his fourth official to Oregon Jan. 20, but he’s not going to end up in Eugene, Ore. Although Brooks had a great time checking out the Ducks, we’re told the distance from home and various other factors will preclude him from choosing Oregon.
Namely, Brooks’ affinity for the other suitors he’s considering.
Maryland continues to resonate, and Penn State shot way up the leaderboard thanks to the staff’s late charge. Brooks should be in Happy Valley Jan. 27 for his final official, the sense being the Nittany Lions coaches’ could win the four-star over before it’s all said and done. The Benedictine prospect has always seemed to have his eye on national programs, and now that Penn State’s heavily involved and in need of a linebacker, Brooks finally has a real opportunity to suit up for one.
LSU, another prime suitor, is certainly a national program, but the Tigers’ coaches have around five linebackers targeted and the staff may not be making as hard of a push as some of Brooks’ other players. And although Brooks’ fourth contender’s -- Northwestern -- academics and atmosphere attracted with Brooks (he loved Chicago during his official), the Terps; Nittany Lions; and Tigers are thought to have the edge over the Wildcats.
Indeed, Maryland’s coaches have made it know how much they covet Brooks’ services. From Matt Barnes to D.J. Durkin to Chris Beatty, they’ve sent multiple staffers through Benedictine and the family’s home, gaining the Brookses ears. Location isn’t a huge consideration for Brooks, but his parents do appreciate College Park, Md.’s, relative close proximity to home.
Also, Brooks has bonded with the incoming UMD recruits and thinks the talent influx is going to boost the Terps significantly. On top of that, Brooks loves the school’s academics and the various opportunities the D.C. area represents. Most of all, though, he sees the chance to contribute right away and potentially start early during his career at Maryland.
With the latter in mind, there’s a chance Brooks could fall into UMD’s lap Feb. 1. But we’re keeping a close eye on Penn State and that final official to State College. Pa. The Nittany Lions’ defensive reputation and recent rise have Brooks’ attention for sure.
The feeling on this end is Brooks is going to love his Happy Valley trip, and it could very well turn the tide in PSU’s favor.
Naytron Culpepper, S/CB, Carol City (Miami, Fla.): Culpepper embarked on his fourth official to USF Jan. 20 and has one left to Kentucky Jan. 27 before selecting his future destination on Signing Day. The Bulls’ trip was an interesting one, because it’s the only in-state school Culpepper is considering, and he has a tight rapport with the staff. In fact, Culpepper’s former high school coach is on staff as USF’s defensive backs coach, which is one of the main reasons the safety/corner is high on the program.
Following the visit, Culpepper didn’t indicate exactly where USF stood in the pecking order, but it’s probably fairly close to the top.
But the sense is Michigan State may have the inside track heading down the stretch what with the staff’s ardent pursuit. Culpepper has seen Michigan State twice now, most recently for a Jan. 13 official, and loved the atmosphere in East Lansing, Mich. He fit in well with the players, easily bonded with the staff and likes the coaches’ player-development reputation.
True, the Terps were Culpepper’s stated frontrunner for some time. Maryland defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim had been in regular contact with Culpepper, the recruit taking to the assistant’s personality and coaching prowess. Culpepper then embarked on his Maryland official Dec. 2 and talked up the environment in College Park. He connected with the current Terps and the rest of the coaches, saying he felt he was already part of the family. Culpepper sensed an opportunity to play early at Maryland too, which is a key factor for him.
But Abdul-Rahim and Co. haven’t gone in-home with Culpepper, which is an indication they might not be pushing as hard for the three-star as Michigan State’s and USF’s staffs. So, we’ve downgraded the three-star to “cool” on the hot board.
Next up, Culpepper has Kentucky, with the Wildcats’ SEC affiliation having appeal. But we’re led to believe this is going to come down to Michigan State and USF -- unless the Terps’ coaches pick up the pace in the next couple days. Barring that, UMD headman D.J. Durkin may be content to sign just four defensive backs in 2017 and then supplement the class with a transfer or two.
Tariq Castro-Fields, CB, Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.): The Terps remain alive in the Castro-Fields sweepstakes, and may be better positioned than we surmised the last few weeks.
Castro-Fields elected to delay his Jan. 23 college-decision date to presumably vet his final three options further, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban never went in-home with the four-star, which takes the Tide out of the picture. Meanwhile, UMD head coach D.J. Durkin’s and area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim’s in-person pitch Jan. 24 left a distinct impression, perhaps giving Maryland a real chance to unseat the assumed leader: Penn State.
The Nittany Lions -- which hosted the four-star Jan. 13, sent head coach James Franklin and Co. through the home a week later, and should have assistants in to see Castro-Fields -- continue to sit in a strong spot, even though the recruit elected not to pop Jan. 23. Castro-Fields said his deep bond with the staff, first and foremost, has his attention. He also loves the environment in Happy Valley, letting on how comfortable he is and how well he fits in. The DMV corner has easily bonded with the PSU players, headlined by his former teammate, Zech McPhearson, who has been pushing the Nittany Lions on the four-star for months.
Castro-Fields has lauded the football program’s rise in the ranks, the fan support and the school’s academics as well.
But Castro-Fields has also enjoyed his many stays in College Park. He loves being on campus, likes the direction Maryland is heading and knows he could play early in UMD’s defense.
Castro-Fields has readily connected with the coaches too. UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim has been on Castro-Fields constantly, and various other staffers are in regular communication. When the crew went in-home with Castro-Fields, they reportedly sold hard the stay-home movement; the opportunity to shine for the local university; and the chance to build Maryland into a winner. We’re told those overtures have the Riverdale prospect reconsidering his feelings.
But we’ll have to see if the extra time the Terps’ staff has been granted will actually pay off. Maybe they’ve finally broken through, but we’re still somewhat wary of Penn State. James Franklin and Co. aren’t going to make this easy for Durkin and Maryland.
We’ll have a resolution Feb. 1, when Castro-Fields will announce his destination.
Notes On Current Commits
-- Terps BUCK pledge Kofi Wardlow (St. John’s/Washington, D.C.) raved about his stay in South Bend, Ind., and then hosted the Irish coaches shortly after returning home. From what we’re hearing, Wardlow is intrigued by headman Brian Kelly’s pitch and is quite interested in suiting up for a traditional athletic and academic institution like Notre Dame.
But before making any moves, Wardlow wants to check out Virginia Tech for his final official Jan. 27. The Hokies have been gaining momentum leading up to Signing Day and would present an attractive destination given their defensive reputation. That said, Va Tech is not viewed as a threat to flip the St. John’s edge rusher.
For now, Wardlow remains firmly committed to Maryland. The D.C. end has been in everyday contact with UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and other staff members, who have done their best to keep Wardlow on board. They’ve been on him longer and harder than any other FBS school -- they went in-home Jan. 25 -- and Wardlow seems to appreciate those efforts. The chance to play near his family and alongside his teammates/friends rings true with Wardlow too.
With the above in mind, Wardlow is likely leaning towards honoring his Terps’ commitment Feb. 1. The Irish coaches are making this interesting, but we’re optimistic Wardlow is going to sign with UMD.
-- UMD defensive line pledges Breyon and Brandon Gaddy (Bishop Sullivan Catholic/Virginia Beach, Va.) are set for their final official to Florida Jan. 27. Our colleagues who cover the Gators are optimistic the UF staff is going to flip the brothers on Signing Day, although we’ve heard it’s not a foregone conclusion. The Terps’ coaches, sans defensive line coach, are doing everything they can to secure the twins’ signatures. Head coach D.J. Durkin, recruiter Chris Beatty, defensive coordinator Andy Buh and more have made in-person overtures, trekked through Bishop Sullivan, and kept up daily communication with the family.
In addition to the coaches, the Gaddys have been conversing with several incoming UMD pledges, who played a primary role in convincing the brothers to join Maryland in the first place.
The fact they can start right away along UMD’s line certainly appeals too.
But the two have always sought to suit up in the SEC and for a winning program, which is why we’re somewhat leery they’ll stick. It’s entirely possible the Gaddys could be smitten with the Gators after spending 48 hours in the Swamp around the UF staff and current players.
For what it’s worth, our contacts at Florida told us the UF coaches think they have the Gaddys “in the bag.” We’ll know soon enough if Durkin’s last in-home Jan. 25 quelled those pro-Florida feelings or not.
-- As of publication, Maryland receiver commit Sean Nelson (Langston Hughes/Fairburn, Ga.) is still supposed to be in Blacksburg, Va., for his Va Tech official Jan. 27. But the vibe is Nelson is more curious about the Hokies than anything else. He’s not thought to be someone who is seriously considering flipping last minute, especially after hearing from Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin firsthand. We’ll monitor the situation in case the Tech staff makes a potent charge, but we’re not so sure that’s going to happen. The Georgia receiver isn’t viewed as a definite need for the Hokies.
-- UMD running back pledge Javon Leake (Page/Greensboro, N.C.) had been hearing from a couple SEC schools, but didn’t receive any new offers. Leake, who hosted the Maryland coaches in-home Jan. 22, will be in College Park Jan. 27 for his lone official visit. He’s set to sign with the Terps Feb. 1.
New Offers Out
Joe Wilkins, WR, North Fort Myers (Fla.) (2018): Maryland was offer No. 8 for the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Wilkins Jan. 23, the Terps in the hunt alongside Arizona; USF; Iowa State; and several others. Wilkins said UMD-area recruiter Andy Buh, who stopped by North Fort Myers recently and has been in touch for a couple weeks, informed him of said offer.
“I’ve texted and DM’d him for the last couple weeks. He’s a good dude, he’s kept in touch with me, and is talking to my mom soon too,” Wilkins said. “He wants to get me up there to see the campus, and I plan on doing that.”
Wilkins’ Terps’ knowledge is limited to the school’s conference affiliation and Under Armour sponsorship at this time. He said he “definitely” wants to see the school, however, which could aid the Maryland staff’s pursuit down the line.
But Wilkins isn’t going to be an easy pull. He’ll probably land a number of ACC and maybe some SEC offers in time, which the Florida native acknowledged would be game-changers. He dubbed Florida a dream school, intimating he’d commit to the Gators if given the opportunity.
At this juncture, Arizona, Maryland and USF are on the brain, with Williams eager to trek through each (he’s been to USF once before). If he does visit College Park, and the national powers stay away, maybe Buh and Co. could gain some steam.
You can read more about Wilkins HERE.
Amir Abdur-Rahman, WR, Mays (Atlanta, Ga.) (2018): The junior Abdur-Rahman, who has been in contact with UMD assistant Brawley Evans, pulled his second offer from Maryland Jan. 25. His first look came from Arkansas State.
“I’m excited right now … I saw some videos of how they work out and their weight room; it looks really nice. The campus looks real nice too,” Abdur-Rahman said. “And from watching the offense, I like the system and the spread. They look like an aggressive team. I feel like Maryland could be potentially a good fit for me.
“Also, my cousin used to live near there and he attended a few games at Maryland. I asked him about the school, and he said it’s a nice place and I’d like it there.”
Abdur-Rahman, who is the teammate of Maryland tight end offeree Malaek Bryant, wants to visit College Park this spring or summer. The Mays product said he and Bryant are “like a duo” and will likely check out the school together.
For the time being, though, Abdur-Rahim will continue familiarizing himself with the school, Evans and the rest of Maryland’s coaches.
Besides UMD, Abdur-Rahman is hearing from several nearby schools like Va Tech and Duke. The Atlanta native is seeking looks from southern powers and Notre Dame, in addition to the service academies (he’s considering entering the military).
If the ACC/SEC institutions become involved, Abdur-Rahman could elude the UMD coaches’ grasp. But, at the moment, it sounds like he has genuine interest in at least seeing what College Park is about.
You can read more about Abdur-Rahman HERE.
Derick Hunter, TE, Dunbar (Fort Myers, Fla.) (2019): Hunter is a star in the 2019 class, and the 6-5, 225-pounder has already seen his recruitment take off. After initially procuring offers from USF, Notre Dame and Florida, Hunter pulled, in succession, Maryland; UCF; and NC State Jan. 24.
The Terps’ verbal came courtesy of UMD-area recruiter Andy Buh, who was in Fort Myers earlier this week. But Buh has a tough row to hoe here; Hunter is going to have his pick of schools by the time he’s a junior.
Lancine Turay, DE, Irvington (N.J.) (2018): Turay, whose older brother suits up at Rutgers, landed his latest offer from Maryland Jan. 19. UMD-area recruiter Matt Barnes did the honors, letting the 6-5, 240-pounder know he had his third verbal, with the Terps joining UMass and Syracuse. The Scarlet Knights also extended an offer two days later.
In regards to the UMD verbal, Turay said he was honored and excited to receive his first Big Ten look. Turay mentioned he’s watched the Terps on TV and likes what he’s seen out of the defense. Moreover, he’s encouraged about the program’s direction under the current regime. He likes that Maryland is only a couple hours from home as well.
Turay hasn’t been in College Park before, but wants to visit at some point this winter.
From this vantage point, Barnes and Co. did well to jump on Turay early, because the Irvington native is a blowup candidate. With his size and athleticism, Turay figures to have most of the Big Ten and ACC after him.
Rutgers will remain in the game throughout since the Scarlet Knights field his brother and due to Turay’s familiarity with Piscataway, N.J. But the defensive end insists he’s keeping an open mind and will thoroughly vet all his options.
Let’s see if the Irvington prospect makes it down to College Park and takes a deeper interest in the program.
You can read more about Turay HERE.
Tyler Bentley, DT, Lakota West (West Chester, Ohio) (2018): The Maryland staff ventured into Ohio earlier this week, with area recruiter Dave Borbely extending a couple offers. One went out to the 6-2, 275-pound defensive tackle Bentley, who is steadily gaining steam on the trail.
Before the UMD verbal, Bentley had offers from West Virginia, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Marshall, Miami (Ohio), Ohio and Toledo. Programs such as Michigan State, Duke, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and more are keeping tabs.
Bentley didn’t specifically comment on his Terps’ offer yet, but it’s a good bet the Ohio native will be a tough pull out of the Midwest.
Steven Faucheux, DE, Lakota West (West Chester, Ohio) (2019): Tyler Bentley (discussed above) looks like a pretty good prospect, but the sophomore Faucheux is going to be a stud. The 6-4, 250 pounder -- and growing -- figures to be one of the most sought-after recruits in Ohio in the 2019 class. The Terps tossed their name into the hat Jan. 25, when area recruiter Dave Borbely anted up.
Already, Faucheux has early offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, Tulane and Maryland, but the Lakota West product is going to triple that list by the time the spring evaluation period hits. Expect the Big Ten bigwigs such as Michigan and Ohio State to quickly gain his eye.
Fa’najae Gotay, ILB, North Fort Myers (Fla.) (2018): This is going to become a trend at Maryland under head coach D.J. Durkin. The staff will scattershot offer as many talents as it can so as not to put all the eggs in one basket.
In reality, the Terps’ coaches can probably only take one or two inside linebackers in 2018, so where Gotay sits on the board won’t be determined until much further down the road. For now, though, the Florida backer is another option the UMD coaches have identified early and may be able to gain inroads with.
“I really enjoyed getting that offer,” Gotay said. “I’ve been talking to one of [Maryland’s graduate assistants] for a little while now, and he’s been cool. And my best friend, Jeshaun Jones (South Fort Myers, Fla.) has an offer from them too, so it was exciting to get one as well. Jeshaun, he’s like my brother, and we stay together and things like that. So we were saying it would be cool to go up there together for a visit.”
Gotay received the offer Jan. 23 from Maryland linebackers’ coach Matt Barnes. The two have just begun developing a rapport, but Gotay said Barnes was “cool” and wants to get to know him more.
At this time, however, Gotay isn’t privy to the Maryland program in the slightest. Nor does he know much about college football in general, Gotay admitting he doesn’t pay attention. So, the North Fort Myers prospect is pretty much in the research phase with his two other offers, from USF and Arizona, and any other suitors that will inevitably materialize.
First thing’s first for Maryland purposes: Getting Gotay up to College Park for a visit.
You can read more about Gotay HERE.
Michael Harris, ILB, Lovejoy (Ga.) (2018): The Maryland staff has been in touch with Harris via Twitter, and Jan. 19 they let him know he had an offer from Maryland.
Harris, the class 6A defensive player of the year in Georgia, is quickly gaining steam on the trail. The 6-2.5, 215 pounder has looks from several nearby ACC schools like Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, UNC and others, while the power programs (Clemson, Florida State) and SEC schools (South Carolina, Florida) are showing interest.
This is not a recruit we expect to wind up in College Park.
Ray Boone, S, Roosevelt (Greenbelt, Md.) (2018): We had a feeling this one was coming.
The local safety Boone had offers from Syracuse and Pitt prior to UMD, so it made sense when Maryland-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim anted up Jan 19. Naturally, the 6-1, 190 pounder was thrilled with look.
“I’m real excited about it… It’s something I’ve wanted for like three years now,” said Boone, who previously held looks from Pitt and Syracuse. “I’m at a loss of words… I wouldn’t say it’s fate, but it’s something I’ve wanted for a long time. I appreciate the opportunity to play at the local school and I appreciate the coaches from Maryland wanting me and talking to me. I really appreciate the chance to be a Terp. It’s a blessing.”
Boone went on to talk up his relationship with Abdul-Rahim, calling him a “real good guy” and a mentor of sorts. The Roosevelt safety also said he’s been in College Park around 10 times the last couple years, the recruit speaking to the atmosphere on campus; the coaches’ personalities; and the coming facility upgrades. He’s keen on the hometown movement as well.
Of course, Boone discussed his friendship with UMD-bound teammate Lawtez Rogers too. Boone said he and Rogers have played together since middle school and would love to continue to do so in college.
Given the above, Maryland is probably the early frontrunner for Boone, but he’s not going to commit right away. He has a growing offer list (Va Tech and Rutgers are likely next to enter the fray) and wants to explore his options this offseason. Additionally, Boone admitted Miami is a dream school for him, so the Hurricanes could shake things up if the staff gets involved.
You can read more about Boone HERE.
Kwantel Raines, S, Aliquippa (Pa.) (2018): The four-star junior Raines landed an offer from UMD defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim Jan. 24. It was the latest in an ever-expanding offer list for the 6-3, 190-pounder.
Already, the in-state mainstays are on Raines, with Penn State holding the early edge. But Michigan, Ohio State and others throughout the Big Ten and possibly the SEC figure to make this an interesting race.
Abdul-Rahim has his work cut out for him.
Off The Board
Calvin Ashley, OT: Turns out our behind-the-scenes sources may have overstated Ashley’s Maryland interest. The five-star, who recently left St. john’s and returned to Florida to finish out his final high school semester, is staying true to his public word and sticking with Auburn.
Ashley took his one and only January official to AU Jan. 20, and afterwards said he’s on board and ready to roll in War Eagle country. He has a terrific rapport with the AU coaches, who put on the full-court press to keep Ashley in tow.
Before the trip, we had been hearing that, despite the tackle’s prognostications to the contrary, the Terps had a legitimate shot at flipping Ashley on Signing Day. Like Auburn’s staff, the Maryland coaches -- UMD-area recruiter Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, line coach Dave Borbely and head coach D.J. Durkin -- did all they could to gain the recruit’s ear, going in-home with Ashley and leaving he and his parents impressed. Plus, we’d been told Ashley and his family had taken to the DMV, while the ex-St. John’s product had formed tight bonds with his new teammates, including UMD pledges Cam Spence and Kasim Hill. Furthermore, Ashley knew he was needed in College Park and could’ve started right away along the line.
But apparently the SEC allure and his fondness for the Auburn coaches and players won out.
We do not expect Ashley to change course, particularly now that he’s left St. John’s and headed back to his home state.